December 2011 Coach's Quiz
We've given you seven rules on how to comply with fair housing law when dealing with hoarding problems. Now let's look at how the rules might apply in the real world. Take the COACH's Quiz to see what you have learned.
INSTRUCTIONS: Each of the following questions has only one correct answer. On a separate piece of paper, write down the number of each question, followed by the answer you think is correct—for example, 1)b, 2)a, and so on.
And this month, there's an extra credit assignment: Judge for Yourself, a description of an actual court case. Test yourself on whether you think the community should be held liable, and then check the summary of the court's ruling to see how much you have learned.
The correct answers (with explanations) follow the quiz. Good luck!
During an investigation into complaints about smells emanating from a particular unit, you discover stacks of newspaper obstructing doors and windows, dirty dishes and open food containers, and piles of clothing and other debris on the floor. Although the resident protests that she's disabled, you may refuse her request for an extended deadline to remedy the unsanitary conditions. True or false?
If the resident in Question #1 doesn't appear to be disabled, fair housing law permits you to obtain additional information to verify that she has a disability-related need for additional time to clean the unit. True or false?
EXTRA CREDIT: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
A company managed an 11-unit community where a resident lived for more than 25 years on a month-to-month basis. The city required each apartment house to maintain a certificate of occupancy, issued by the fire marshal, after periodic inspections, indicating that the building met health and safety codes.
After receiving notice about an upcoming inspection, the resident refused entry to the inspector. From what he could see, there was an excessive amount of clutter inside the unit, so the inspector said that the unit would probably fail the inspection. The property manager gave the resident notice to quit, indicating that it would not rescind the termination if the unit failed another inspection due to housekeeping problems.
A few days later, the unit failed the inspection based on unsanitary conditions, an excessive accumulation of combustible materials, and exit obstruction from excessive accumulated personal belongings. Despite the notice and failed inspection, the resident didn't vacate the unit. When the unit failed two more inspections, the fire inspector warned the community that the resident's repeated failure to correct problems inside the unit could lead to the revocation of the building's certificate of occupancy.
After sending the resident an eviction notice, the community received a request from her attorney for a reasonable accommodation. The attorney indicated that the resident was disabled due to emotional and physical impairments, which caused her to accumulate possessions excessively and made it difficult for her to prepare for inspections in a timely manner. The parties agreed to a settlement in which the community agreed not to file an eviction action until after a fourth inspection, scheduled a week later.
The unit failed the inspection, but the resident didn't vacate the unit as agreed, so the community filed the eviction action. A week later, however, the unit passed a fifth inspection.
The resident asked the court to dismiss the eviction proceedings, arguing that she had a disability-related reason that prevented her from meeting the deadline and that she was entitled to the reasonable accommodation of an additional week to clean the unit. Siding with the resident, the court dismissed the eviction action, ruling that she was entitled to the reasonable accommodation.
On appeal, how did the court rule?
Coach's Answers and Explanations
Correct answer: b
Reason: Rule #4 applies here:
Rule #4: Listen for Reasonable Accommodation Requests
Fair housing laws may require you to extend the deadline to allow the resident to remedy unsanitary conditions inside the unit. The resident's statement that she is disabled and needs more time to clean the unit would probably qualify as a request for a reasonable accommodation.
Correct answer: a
Reason: Rule #5 applies here:
Rule #5: Promptly Respond to Reasonable Accommodation Requests
Subject to strict rules governing disability-related inquiries, you may request additional information if the accommodation request comes from a resident whose disability isn't obvious or the need for the accommodation isn't readily apparent.
ANSWER: JUDGE FOR YOURSELF
In a case involving a Minnesota community, the appeals court overturned the ruling, and ordered the resident to vacate the unit.
Since the resident failed to live up to her obligations under the settlement agreement, the property manager had the right to evict her, even though she passed the fifth inspection. Given the limited nature of eviction proceedings, the lower court lacked the legal authority to treat her reasonable accommodation request as a valid defense to her eviction.
Furthermore, the appeals court commented on problems with her reasonable accommodation argument. It didn't appear that she was ever denied an accommodation, and it seemed that she didn't request another one even after she proved unable, despite reasonable accommodation, to correct the conditions that caused her lease violations and failure to comply with the settlement agreement. The court also expressed “significant doubts that an accommodation that in fact prolongs an unsafe condition and consequently endangers a tenant and her neighbors could be deemed ‘reasonable’” [Kleinman Realty Co. v. Talbot, May 2011].